Bathabile Dlamini: The DA’s racist rationale for calling me incompetent

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 Bathabile Dlamini
Bathabile Dlamini

I have been asked about my silence since the Constitutional Court judgment in September, often accusingly.

But was it not Arundhati Roy who said “there is no such thing as the ‘voiceless’, there are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard”?

Equally, time can be a gift to the deliberately silent.

My deliberate silence is based on my respect for the supreme rule of law as prescribed by the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court ordered that a copy of the inquiry report (into last year’s SA Social Security Agency debacle) by Judge Bernard Ngoepe and its judgment be forwarded to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to consider whether I should be prosecuted for perjury.

These processes require respectful silence.

Time, too, has highlighted the blatant disregard for democratic constitutionalism that permeates the DA.

At the heart of this attitude is the historic use by colonialists of the law and its courts to undermine African leadership.

Justly, the confidence and decision by the DA to haul the head of state to court deserves to be located in its colonial, anti-African context.

In September 2018, DA leader Mmusi Maimane wrote a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa “and I’ve given him until the 15th of October to say he must do the right thing”.

The basis of his position, which is the notion of “rationality”, masks age-old, uninnovative tactics used by colonial authorities to reinforce the idea of African incompetence.

Strikingly more important is what Maimane did not highlight – the legal definition of “rationality”.

On delivering its decision to invalidate the appointment of then NDPP Menzi Simelane, the Constitutional Court explained rationality as “concerned with the evaluation of a relationship between means and ends: The relationship, connection or link between the means employed to achieve a particular purpose on the one hand and the purpose or end itself. The aim of the evaluation of the relationship is not to determine whether some means will achieve the purpose better than others, but only whether the means employed are rationally related to the purpose for which the power was conferred”.

A critical measure of such relation requires an objective lens on the programmes and performance of the women’s department in relation to the purpose of women’s empowerment and gender equality.

The absence of such suggests that the only rational deduction from Maimane’s threat to the president is the racist, assumed incompetence of Africans.

Importantly, although the DA claims social morality and justice to be in its purview, it has yet to shed its inherited hatred for and curiosity about African womanhood.

The ancestors of the founders of the DA trafficked Sarah Baartman – paraded, eroticised and fetishised her throughout Europe. Yet she fought to the grave.

More recently, the DA attempted to silence Lindiwe Mazibuko. She, too, resisted.

They maintained the same lazy, unimaginative strategy with Mamphela Ramphele.

Comrade Patricia de Lille followed and she has given them a “Good” run for their egos.

It is from the same hearts that their rationale suggesting my own incompetence emerges.

These are historic myths devoid of substantive proof. Our incompetence is often determined and justified by the men with whom we associate.

When asked by Eyewitness News last September to justify laying “perjury charges when the court has already directed the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] to consider charges against” myself, the response from Maimane was that, in “the NPA, there have been many other cases that have come before them. Most exemplary is one of Jacob Zuma.”

Again, in October, when asked why the DA was interfering with Constitutional Court processes, the DA’s spokesperson on social development Bridget Masango immediately responded that “the NPA in our experience has had cases like the Nkandla case on the president, and it sat there forever and there are many other cases”.

Similarly, throughout her campaign for the presidency of the ANC, and despite her professional and political feats in the ongoing struggle for social change, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s association with her former husband was the biggest weapon against her.

In October, Helen Zille referred to her as “Zuma’s ex-wife”, and insinuated that she is/was/would have been as corrupt as the president of the country.

Baseless, gross, racist and perverse – but familiar.

What must be made of a society in which an African woman stands in front of a room of white, patriarchal media to proclaim that another African woman was “an embarrassment to the government and country and the president should dismiss her immediately. Whether or not he does, the DA will lay criminal charges against Dlamini for committing perjury by lying under oath to the Constitutional Court”.

Masango’s agency confirms Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s words, that “men dominate women through the agency of women themselves”.

The implications of the agency of women in feeding the insatiable colonial curiosity of African womanhood are psychosocial and political.

Through words and actions, women can either do the bidding of patriarchy or fall in line with a united women’s movement that defends women from across the spectrum.

Against this sustained historical phenomenon, we remain resolute and, as writer Toni Morrison said, it is important to know who the real enemy is “and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining your reason for being … None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

Dlamini is the minister in the presidency responsible for women and is the president of the ANC Women’s League

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